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May 2, 2009

Spiece: Smith on his game

FT. WAYNE, Ind. - 2010 big man Josh Smith didn't start off his spring with a bang at the Boo Williams Invitational, but on Friday night at the Bill Hensley Memorial Spiece Run 'N Slam he showed why he is one of the best players in the country.

Making a statement

The primetime matchup on Friday night was between Seattle Rotary and Spiece Indy Heat. Indy Heat has the services of DeShaun Thomas, Marquis Teague, and Russell Byrd while Rotary features Smith and super sophomore Anthony Wroten Jr.

Due to some problems getting from his hometown of Indianapolis to Ft. Wayne, Teague missed the first half of the game, and it was obvious that Indy Heat needed him in a big way. Without Teague to try and control Wroten, Rotary was able to get out and run and convert numerous easy layups.

The biggest connection for Rotary was Wroten to Smith. With Thomas being no match for Smith on the inside, Smith was able to control the paint and clean the glass without much of a challenge. Using numerous impressive looks from Wroten, Smith converted around the bucket with regularity, and even though he missed his fair share of bunnies, often times he corralled his own rebound and simply tipped the ball back in.

While Smith was efficient, solid, and showed a good motor, Wroten and Thomas were slightly off from the floor. Thomas was trying to do it all himself, but he simply couldn't get his shot going. Thomas' pet move is a one dribble step back to a three pointer, and almost without fail on Friday night it wasn't falling. Wroten was going to the rim with his shots off the drive, but still he was not able to convert.

Without Thomas or Wroten shooting at a high percentage, Smith was the x-factor, and the biggest reason why Rotary was able to get out to a 12-point lead at halftime.

In the second half Teague made a big difference for Indy Heat. He showed his explosion going to the rim, and converted in traffic numerous times. Also he hit a pair of threes to keep the defender honest.

While Teague's energy and talent gave Indy Heat a boost, the big man in the middle was simply too much. Smith, who has some of the best hands for a big guy in the country, snatched rebounds at will and caught passes down low in traffic. With Smith motivated and playing hard, he couldn't be stopped.

Due to the fact that they had no answer down low, Indy Heat needed Thomas and Byrd to get it going from deep, but that didn't happen. Byrd didn't score in the second half, and Thomas was struggling. While Thomas did score an impressive 31 points, he wasn't efficient at all going 9-24 from the field. Included in that was 5-11 from three point range. Byrd only managed to score six points.

Smith on the other hand was a star. He pulled in 16 rebounds to go along with 30 big points.

While Spiece was able to close the gap late, Smith's production and presence both on offense and defense was too much to overcome and Rotary came home with the 90-85 victory.

Notable performances

One of the best shooting performances of the spring came from Spencer Turner in a losing effort. The 6-foot-3 shooter deluxe from Bloomington, Indiana almost did enough to will Indiana Elite-One to a win on Friday night. Turner nailed eight threes on his way to 29 points. He was simply in one of those zones where it seemed like every time he shot the ball it was going in. Even on the rare occurrence that he missed, the shot still looked pure.

While Turner was putting up numbers in a losing effort, Rob Brandenberg showed out in a winning effort over Indiana Elite. At 6-foot-2 Brandenberg has an explosive first step that allows him to get to the rim, and also he is a good shooter when he gets an open look for three. With good athleticism and long arms, Brandenberg was very impressive putting up 21 points.

Also playing solid was 2011 prospect Marshall Plumlee. The youngest of the Plumlee boys shows flashes, but is working on his consistency. At a legit 6-foot-10, Plumlee showed skill and a nice touch out to 18 feet. Also Plumlee has the attitude of a leader and plays hard on every single possession.

Indiana commitment Matt Carlino was in Ft. Wayne wearing a facemask and didn't look entirely comfortable with it. The lead guard from Arizona showed a decent first step off the dribble, but he didn't finish well in traffic, and also got himself into foul trouble on Friday night. Carlino has a good shooting stroke and is a solid athlete, but he didn't have a ton of production in the loss.

Ryan Boatright gained a lot of notoriety two years ago when he committed to Southern California before he even picked a high school, but make no mistake about it the kid can play. Boatwright is extremely quick and was able to get into the lane and finish or dished it off to open teammates for an easy bucket. Also on a pair of occasions Boatwright showed a good stroke from three.

Boatwright's backcourt mate is Illinois pledge Tracy Abrams. Abrams is a point man who knows how to play, and who can really shoot the ball. When left open he was money from deep, but at the same time he didn't force things. He showed the ability to run a team and looked good in helping his team to a blowout win.

Outside of Smith, maybe the most impressive performer of the evening was Vander Blue. Blue is an athletic wing with one of the quickest first steps you will see. Playing with the Illinois Warriors, Blue took over and showed off the full arsenal. He scores off the dribble, shoots off the catch, has good court vision, and is a willing rebounder. Overall there wasn't much to dislike about Blue's opening performance.

Making a solid impression next to Blue was shooting guard Brandon Spearman. The 6-foot-3 off guard ran the point at times for the Warriors, and can really score. Spearman is a good shooter from deep, and demonstrated a nice ability to score on a two dribble pull up. Also Spearman is an adept ball handler who is capable of bringing the ball up the floor.

Another member of the Illinois Warriors who looked good was diminutive point guard Ahmad Starks. Starks is a disruptive force on defense who can use his quickness to get into defenders trying to bring the ball up the floor. Also Starks was shooting the ball very well from three, and creates open looks for his teammates.

School lists

Josh Smith rattled off a long school list consisting of the entire Pac 10, Texas, Gonzaga, Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Florida, UConn, Louisville, and a host of others. He did note that at the moment UCLA and Washington are probably the two schools recruiting him the hardest.

Teague's list of Louisville, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Wake Forest remains unchanged, and he still plans on making a choice in June.

After putting on his shooting display Turner said he is receiving interest from Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Illinois.

Brandenberg has solid mid-major interest from Akron, Butler, Miami-Ohio, Kent State, Cleveland State, and Wright State. At the moment Wright State is his only offer.


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